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Isn’t every phone smart?

How times have changed.

The question I dread being asked is “I need a dumb phone for certain user profiles, what do you recommend?”

This question used to be easy to answer, as almost every device manufacturer had a range of budget devices with big buttons and limited features. This is not the case now, though – the bigger names now concentrate exclusively on smartphones. 

In the UK, feature phone choice is pretty much limited to Alcatel, the first player to enter the UK feature phone market, and Nokia (run today by HMD Global). However despite the scarcity of so-called ‘dumb’ devices, the iconic feature phone is back – 17 years after it was first released.

Yes, the Nokia 3310 made a comeback at Mobile World Congress 2017. Even the new version has had a ‘smart’ makeover though – it now boasts a colour screen, basic internet access, Bluetooth, an SD card and a camera! And while there’s no Wi-Fi, 4G, or app store, and social media consists of good old fashioned texting, the battery will last for up to 30 days!

It might be retro and generate some novelty interest with your mates, but basically it will drive you mad after a couple of weeks. Why? Because we have become so dependent on our smartphones that the 3310 will inevitably end up in your glove box for emergencies only.

Smartphone penetration is now more than 80% in UK. So if it’s now the case that almost every phone is a smartphone, what are we doing with them?

The answer to that question is ‘absolutely everything’.

Think about how smartphones and apps have transformed the travel industry – tickets, loyalty cards, boarding passes, timetables, taxis, parking, maps, sat nav and phrasebooks have all been replaced by the app.

Think also about all the other accessories you may have carried around at one time or another – cameras, watches, calculators, business cards, notepads, torches, mirrors, newspapers, magazines… again, these have all replaced by your phone.

So that just leaves PKW then?

The Urban Dictionary defines PKW as “an acronym for Phone, Keys, Wallet; the 3 basic requirements necessary for any activity that involves leaving the sanctity of your own home.”

But in reality, you no longer even need your keys or you wallet when you go out.

Keys will soon become a thing of the past. Volvo customers will soon be offered an application that enables a digital key on their mobile phone to do everything a physical key currently does, such as locking or unlocking the doors and starting the engine. The same goes for building locks – when your phone is outside, smart locks will recognise you approaching your front door, which will unlock when touched.

The wallet in your pocket can also easily be replaced by a digital equivalent. Mobile payments like Apple Pay and Android Pay make it easy to leave your wallet at home, as long as you don’t want to spend more than £30 in a single transaction. There is even a photo ID app to prove your age!

So it looks like the smartphone is your basic requirement for any activity. Next time you’re on a big night out, try it –  leave everything at home and take only your phone with you and see what happens. Actually, I know what is going to happen – your battery will die halfway through the night… so you better pack a portable power charger as well, just in case!